Peter Cooke, Democratic candidate for governor, distanced himself from his national party's platform this week by stating that he is opposed to gay marriage.
The national Democratic Party's platform committee approved an addition to the party's platform that calls for the repeal of a federal law that recognizes marriage as between a man and a woman. Cooke told the Daily Herald on Monday that he does not support that portion of the party platform.
"My stance is in complete alignment with the LDS Church," Cooke said.
Cooke noted that often in Utah Democrats are associated with supporting gay marriage and abortions, but he argued that the stereotype is just not true with all of Utah's Democrats.
"I don't like to be stovepiped into being one kind of person or one kind of Democrat," Cooke said.
Cooke did say that he supports allowing gay couples to adopt children, which is not allowed in Utah, but he acknowledged that this was one point he and GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney have in common. Romney in the past has stated that he is fine with gay couples being allowed to adopt, but has further clarified that he simply acknowledges that it is legal in most states.
Cooke did state that he does not believe anyone should be discriminated against because of their sexual preference and that he would support a statewide non-discrimination law dealing with the matter. Cooke also stated that he does not support abortion rights except in cases of rape, incest or if the life of the mother would be at stake.
Brigham Young University political scientist Adam Brown said Cooke's stance on gay marriage is a tough issue for his campaign. He noted that Cooke could be frustrating a segment of Utah Democrats who do support gay marriage but observed that in a general election, the stance is the smarter move to increase his electability among Utah voters in general.
Cooke's announcement appears to be an attempt to raise awareness among Republican and independent voters who aren't in love with Utah's current governor, Gary Herbert, that there is another social conservative in the race.
Cooke said he is looking for opportunities to introduce himself to the public so they can hear his stand on certain issues but said he hasn't been able to get the word out as well because the Herbert campaign is dragging its feet to agree to debates.
"I've asked for open debates with the governor," Cooke said. "He has refused to schedule those. We have one potentially."